Clean air is fundamental to the health of our families, and the health of our region.
Why care about air
State of Otago’s air
What we can do
The Otago Regional Council (ORC) is responsible for monitoring ambient (outdoor) air quality and working with our communities towards meeting the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality.
It is a statutory requirement under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) that the Council monitors ambient air quality for our region. The map below shows the area which we are responsible for and the different air zones. The map below shows the area which we are responsible for and the different air zones.
Map overview of air zones
As well as ambient air quality, it is the Council’s role to facilitate community centred action and education around our local air quality issues. The Air Quality Strategy outlines the following guiding principles for implementation:
- Locally focused
- Community centred
Being guided by these principles, the Council hopes to achieve the following goals outlined in the Air Quality Strategy through the implementation of the Air Plan.
- Adopt cleaner heating
- Reduce reliance on outdoor burning
- No nuisance from emissions and dust
- Toxic emissions do not cause harm to people or ecosystems
- Air pollution from traffic and industries is effectively addressed
To learn more about the Council’s role click here.
Why care about air?
We are constantly interacting with air. It is the sustaining life force for everything in the natural world. There are many different areas of life that Otago’s air quality, and many activities we do that influence air quality.
Home heating is a major source of air pollution across the Otago region (up to 92% in some areas and 95% in winter!). During winter, the pollution from homes can become trapped and pose a risk to our health and well-being. This is more common in our inland towns (such as Alexandra and Arrowtown) where calm conditions and inversions layers mean the smoke is trapped at ground level.
Wood is a popular fuel for home heating in Otago. However, the use of old wood burners, wet wood, and other solid fuels cause particulate matter (PM10) to be released. This PM10 affects our air quality, and the fine particles can get into your lungs causing serious health problems.
Find more on safe and efficient home heating here.
Find more about the effects of air pollution on human health here.
Vehicle emissions contribute to health outcomes in Otago, especially in more urban areas like Dunedin and Queenstown.
Traffic, especially on unsealed roads, can also create dust which can lead to high levels of PM10.
Motor vehicles produce multiple contaminants which pollute air and affect environmental and human health, including:
- Fine particles (PM2.5 and smaller)
- Carbon monoxide
- Carbon dioxide
- Volatile organic compounds
- Sulphur oxides
- Nitrogen oxides
Petrol v Diesel
Diesel and petrol fuel combustion produces different emissions. Petrol engines emit more unburned and partially burned fuel (hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide), while diesel engines emit more nitrogen oxides and smoke (fine particulates). Soot, hydrocarbons, sulphur-based substances, and volatile organic compounds make up these fine particles, which are very harmful to human health.
What you can do?
The best thing to do to help reduce motor vehicle emissions is to reduce the amount you use them. For example:
- Using public transport
And for the times that you do need to use a motor vehicle, check out the AA’s guide to saving fuel while driving.
Aotearoa New Zealand is unique in our greenhouse gas emissions. Where everywhere else in the world has the greatest contribution to their emissions profile from burning of fossil fuels, our main source is from farmed animals. Agriculture accounts for 48% of our gross emissions. You can access more information on emissions and greenhouse gases from the emissions profile.
Spraying of agrichemicals also impacts the air quality of Otago. Spray drift is when spray drifts away from the target area. This can occur because of how it is applied or weather conditions like wind and rain. Some agrichemicals can be extremely harmful to people and pets, or harm other plants. Because of this, agrichemicals need to be contained to the target area.
Before you spray:
Industry is not a significant contributor to air pollution in the Otago region; however, they do need to continue to be managed as discharges have the potential to lessen air quality.
A desired outcome of the Air Quality Strategy is to effectively address air pollution from industry. This aims to be done through continual management of industrial discharges through plans and consenting while keeping up to date with industry standards and best practices.
We monitor air quality at seven sites across Otago, focusing on the pollutant particulate matter, PM10, and PM2.5. Particulate matter has natural sources such as dust and sea salt, but it is also emitted during combustion. The main combustion sources in Otago are from home heating, industry and vehicle exhaust. PM10 and 2.5 concentrations are highest in winter, due to smoke emitted from chimneys. Our air quality monitoring data helps us report high pollution events and assess air quality trends over time.
State of Otago’s air
We monitor air quality at seven sites across Otago, focusing on the pollutant particulate matter, PM10, and PM2.5. Particulate matter has natural sources such as dust and sea salt, but it is also emitted during combustion. The main combustion sources in Otago are from home heating, industry and vehicle exhaust. PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations are highest in winter, due to smoke emitted from chimneys. Our air quality monitoring data helps us report high pollution events and assess air quality trends over time.
What we can do
Our Air Plan and Air Strategy have been developed to help manage air pollution in Otago, but we all have a part to play in improving our air quality.
If wood isn’t properly dried, it creates more smoke and less heat when burned. This pollutes the air with more toxic compounds than dry wood, can lead to the build-up of flammable creosote in your chimney, and will cost you more to heat your home adequately.
Firewood storage tips
- Collect wood 6-12 months before you intend to use it
- Split wood at least once – wood dries up to 15 times quicker along the grain than across it
- Stack loosely somewhere covered with good airflow
- Only cover the top of a drying stack
- Burn only dry and untreated wood
For more information and tips for safely and efficiently heating your home, click here.
Phone: 0800 800 033
If you observe an instance of pollution in Otago, use the Pollution Hotline to report observations of pollution to water, air, or land. Your call or email will be dealt with in complete confidence.
You can also report any instance of pollution online as well.
Report incidents as soon as possible after you see them. Early reporting and evidence helps us to take action. If you can, take some photographs and email them with your report.
Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority
New Zealand Home Heating Association
Health effects of air pollution
World Health Organisation on air pollution
Ministry for the Environment – National air updates